Did Hennepin County blow the ballot-transmission process?
posted at 10:10 am on November 11, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
Late last night, I received this e-mail from an election judge in Hennepin County:
As a “Machine Judge” it was my duty to setup and take down the voting machine. I still find it very surprising that there has been no attention to the issue pertaining to problems with transmitting the election results in Hennepin county. I followed up with other city authorities and confirmed what I had heard…..
The way the process is to work is that the voting machine or optical scanner is set up in the morning and a tape is run that is left in the machine showing a zero sum total for all the candidates. The polls are then opened and the ballots are fed in throughout the day. There is a counter on the machine which shows how many ballots have been counted, so that a comparison to the number of ballots used can be made.
At the end of the day, the polling location is closed, and the absentee ballots are then addressed and fed into the machine. Once all this is done, we must close out the totals. This entails a number of steps…..one of which is transmitting the results. There is a modem in each of the voting machines which can dial up the county and send the results…..this before the official tape is printed within the machine. This offers a level of security as the results are now off site, and the Official Tape with the totals is still at the precinct.
What happened on election night was Hennepin County set up the wrong IP address for all the machines in the county. There was no way to transmit the results to a secure off site location. Instead all the precinct’s needed to pull the electronic cards out of the machine, along with the tape, and head to City Hall to consolidate and then have them sent to the County. This means that one person had all the voting results and ballots in their possession for that precinct. So it certainly dropped the level of security a level.
So in my mind the process was not followed, and the integrity of the procedure was flawed if not corrupted. I personally recorded the totals from my precinct to view and ensure they were recorded properly, however some Judges after working 16 hours, may not have felt the need to be as diligent, nor hang around to the very end…..A cynic could say something could have been swapped out in the process.
Now some of this thinking puts me in the tin foil hat crowd…..however someone should be asking Hennepin County Officials and Mark Richie, why the transmission of votes from these machines did not work. and how can they ensure the integrity of all the vote totals without this added step. I really believe this needs to be addressed. This system did not work as it was designed and someone needs to explain why.
I spoke directly with this election judge, who elaborated on this information. The county actually knew about the failure four days in advance. The election judges alerted the county to the problem, but they declined to reprogram the cards with the proper IP address. Election judges have to go through training on how to use these machines, and one can understand the frustration this person had at being told to just forget it all.
One point should be emphasized. The ballots got conveyed to the county facilities by one person. Before the advent of electronic transmission, ballots were almost always guarded by two people to avoid the appearance (and the reality) of ballot tampering. In fact, that’s the reason why states and counties went to electronic transmission of ballot counts — to keep human hands off of the tallies as much as possible.
Hennepin County issued no written instructions for the processing of ballots in the failure of electronic transmission. It looked to this judge like they simply made up the process as they went along. That failure is itself unconscionable. The county should have already had a back-up plan, and certainly should have had a written process for safeguarding ballots and results within the four days that they knew of the programming failure, especially if they weren’t prepared to reprogram the precinct machines — which the election judge told me would have been a simple thing to do, and easily accomplished in the four-day window.
I have a call into the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office this morning, but government offices are closed for Veterans Day. I will follow up tomorrow on this story to get an answer as to why the county did not prepare for this problem, and why this information has not yet been made public.
Power Line is also covering this story.